Eastern Iranian languages

The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times (from c. the 4th century BC). The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. As opposed to the Middle Western Iranian dialects, the Middle Eastern Iranian preserves word-final syllables.

Eastern Iranian
Central Asia, northwestern South Asia, Caucasus. Historically in Scythia and Sarmatia.
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
  • Northeastern
  • Southeastern
Map of modern Iranian languages. The Eastern Iranian languages are shaded red/purple (Pashto, Ossetian, Pamir, Ormuri)

The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 40-60 million speakers between the Oxus River in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan. The second-largest language is Ossetic with roughly 600,000 speakers. All other languages have fewer than 200,000 speakers combined.

Most living Eastern Iranian languages are spoken in a contiguous area, in southern and eastern Afghanistan as well as the adjacent parts of western Pakistan, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province of eastern Tajikistan, and the far west of Xinjiang region of China. There are also two living members in widely separated areas: the Yaghnobi language of northwestern Tajikistan (descended from Sogdian), and the Ossetic language of the Caucasus (descended from Scytho-Sarmatian). These are remnants of a vast ethno-linguistic continuum that stretched over most of Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and parts of the Caucasus, and West Asia in the 1st millennium BC, otherwise known as Scythia. The large Eastern Iranian continuum in Eastern Europe would continue up to including the 4th century AD, with the successors of the Scythians, namely the Sarmatians.[1]

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